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Order Update: Franciscan Participation in Amazon Synod and Other News

The descriptions below summarize recent developments throughout the Order of Friars Minor. Additional details can be found on the OFM website and by following the Order on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Sam Nasada, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, with Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, OFM, in the General Curia. Cardinal Hummes was the man who told Cardinal Bergoglio to never forget the poor.  The pope later said that this was what made him choose the name Francis. (Photo courtesy of Sam Nasada)

► Thirty members of the Franciscan Family  — including “synod fathers,” auditors and experts — came from various countries to attend last month’s Vatican Synod for the Amazon. The Oct. 6 to 27 synod, whose central theme was the defense of the life of peoples, biodiversity and our “common home,” reached an extensive diagnosis and produced a final document with specific proposals for “new paths for the church and for an integral ecology.” It was a time of fraternity for the participants — which included cardinals, 17 bishops, four sisters, four friars and two sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order — who gathered in the OFM General Curia in Rome for a time of fraternity. On Oct. 24, the group went to the Church of Santa Maria Mediatrice, where they prayed evening prayer together with the fraternity and afterward shared dinner in an atmosphere of brotherhood and joy. 

► The Amazon Awareness Seminar, which took place on Oct. 5 at the Pontificial University Antonianum in Rome, attracted a large cross-section of people from different walks of life. The Order, through its JPIC – OFM Office,  – and  together with the Antonianum, the World Catholic Movement for Climate (WCMC), and the Ecclesial Network “Red Eclesial Panamazonica”  — assembled a seminar of reflection and listening that was intended to contribute to the synodal process, by raising issues that affect the entire Amazon region.

► Michael Perry, OFM, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, is continuing his recovery from the bicycling accident he experienced this summer in Chicago. Last month, he wrote to the friars, “On Oct. 15, I visited the orthopedic surgeon who performed the initial operation to reconstruct part of my pelvis, the acetabulum. According to the X-rays, the bone is slowly knitting itself back together, thanks to your prayers and support, to a program of rest and non-weight bearing for the left leg, and, of course, to the 31 screws and two plates that help hold everything together. I must continue to avoid putting weight on my left leg at least until the end of the month of November. I continue to go to physical therapy three times a week to work on muscle strength, flexibility, and overall strength.”

► An image of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, with the text “Laudato Si,’ is visiting 18 countries in Asia and Latin America with the Philippines as its first stop in Asia. The image seeks to heighten awareness of the need to care for the environment, as well as to highlight Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment Laudato Si’. The image, currently in Manila, will tour several other churches in the Philippines before being taken to other Asian countries.

The cover of the new book compiled by Our Lady of Guadalupe Provincial Minister Jack Clark Robinson.  Amazon. (Photo courtesy of Amazon)

► A book about the history of the U.S. Franciscans, written by Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, the provincial of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, was published on Nov. 11. Part of the popular “Coast to Coast (Images of America)” series of books with vintage photographs, the book contains many of the photos displayed at this summer’s interprovincial US-6 Chapter of Mats in Denver, Colorado. The book can be purchased through Amazon.

► The General Council of the Order held its recent meetings (referred to as “Tempo Forte” in the General Curia), in September, beginning Sept. 13. Presided by General Vicar Julio César Bunader, OFM, in the absence of the Minister General due to his current physical restrictions, the meeting covered several issues and actions, including the presentation and review of a number of final reports submitted by general visitors at the end of their canonical visitations, the appointment of five new general visitors and the ratification of elections. dealt with a number of issues:

  • Five new general visitors were appointed for:
    • The Custody of Our Lady of the Seven Joys, Brazil
    • The Custody of Saint Clare, Mozambique
    • The Pontifical University Antonianum, Rome
    • The Pontifical International Marian Academy, Rome
    • The Custody of the Caribbean, dependent on the Province of Arantzazu, Spain
  • The acts of elections were ratified for:
    • The chapter of the Province of the Assumption (Rio de la Plata), Argentina
    • The “intermediate” Chapter (the election of definitors) of the Province of St. Barbara, USA
    • The capitular congresses of four provinces
    • The extra-capitular elections of seven guardians and a provincial treasurer

The next Tempo Forte is taking place from  Nov. 8 to 22. Later this month, the General Council will meet with the general visitors who will be engaged in carrying out canonical visitation in many entities of the Order in the coming months. The visitors will receive training during their time at the Curia.

► As part of the steadfast support for the Philippine province which will host the General Chapter in Manila, the first time one will be held in Asia, the provincial ministers of the East Asia Conference — in a resolution during the Oct. 14 to 17  annual provincial ministers’ meeting in in Vung Tau City, Vietnam — established that the March 2020 General Chapter will be held in Manila. This historic resolution marks the first time in history that a General Chapter will be held in Asia. The provincial ministers promised to extend assistance to the Philippines financially and also through friar-personnel who can serve as interpreters and translators during the General Chapter. The friars from South Asia will be having their meeting in March 2020 and are set to discuss the same topic as one of their agenda items.

The EAC friars also decided during that same meeting to begin offering short courses in August 2020 to serve as building blocks of the Franciscan Study Center in Asia towards a full academic center as envisioned by FCAO. Among the courses to be offered by the Franciscan Study Center in Asia is a three-month renewal program for friars celebrating their jubilees focused on strengthening human, Christian and Franciscan aspects of our life. The ministers also planned to offer a three-week course for guardians and formators on leadership and management particularly in the area of professional standards and code of conduct. The three EAC secretaries will also offer courses in the areas of JPIC, Formation and Studies; as well as Missions and Evangelization, all suited to the Asian context. The ministers also agreed to hold the second lay brothers gathering in Vietnam in 2020 to be organized by the EAC Secretariat for Formation and Studies and also to send friar animators and lay partners-in-ministry to the International JPIC Course to be held in the Philippines in May 2020. The Vietnamese province celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.

► The province of St. Casimir in Lithuania is celebrating two anniversaries: the 550th jubilee of the Order of Friars Minor begin established in Vilnius, Lithuania, and the 30th anniversary of  the Friars Minor return to their monastery and parish in Kretinga, Lithuania, which restarted their public activity on Nov. 19, 1989. The friars returned to Kretinga while Lithuania was still until Soviet Union control, just months before the country achieved its independence on March 11, 1990. The provincial minister, Algirdas Malakauskis OFM, expressed his thanks to the Franciscan entities, including Holy Name Province, which helped the province reestablish itself. A celebration of the restoration of the independent St. Casimir province is scheduled for Nov. 16 and 17 in Kretinga.

► The November 2019, issue of the Order’s newsletter, Fraternitas, is now available. It contains articles on the dedication of the Synod for the Amazon to St. Francis, news items for events around the Order, some recently published Franciscan books, and information on Franciscan participation on the upcoming 25th International Climate Change Conference (known as COP25), which will be held Dec. 2 to 13 in Santiago, Chile, and the Workshop of the Franciscan Scholar, which will have sessions at various dates between now and May 2020 at the Antonianum.

► Five years ago, the Poor Clares in Galway, Ireland, published a book of prayers and meditations called Calm the Soul. One of the most popular prayers also gave the book its title. The simple poem Calm the Soul touched people so deeply that the sisters thought converting it into a song could make it more widely accessible. They began to experiment with various tunes and came up with a melody that draws on the musical motifs of a traditional Irish love song.  Now, the Poor Clares, along with their collaborators — including Franciscan friars — have a hit song that was promoted on the OFM website.  Sr. Colette, abbess of the Poor Clare Monastery in Galway, said, “It’s God’s business what happens with the song and if it makes the charts it would be great. If it goes viral that would be great too. Our hope is that the message of the song will reach those who need a soul-lift or maybe who are just struggling to keep afloat in the ordinary everyday grind.”

Compiled by Jim McIntosh, OFM

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